Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Get Drunk, Shop Online


Unfortunately, you cannot legislate against the stupidity of people who get drunk and buy things online. The flip, vacuous comment in this story has me wondering if this is real, by the way:


That's damned good satire in any case. You can imagine poor Miss Whitten saying tee hee all the way to bankruptcy court.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's All About Jobs


There are a lot of things to like about this piece by David Rohde. Specifically, anyone who identifies jobs as being the number one issue facing the American middle class has got it exactly right.

But, what happens is, when you move on to his second item, you see the problem. Since we are talking about how jobs have evaporated, it's easy to see where so many people get it wrong. Jobs have not left because of government spending; in many cases, those jobs disappeared when austerity and "belt tightening" took over as themes and when our elected officials stopped trying to use proven techniques to revive the economy.

Not all government spending is wrong; trying to get people to embrace that fact means having to move mountains and pound sand. So, when an idea takes hold, it has to be battled back, time and again. One of the great failures of this era has to be the failure to destroy the idea that the government should cut spending during a recession. We've seen, time and again, where this leads to a downward spiral.

Rohde's piece illustrates that, perfectly. At the end of his piece about jobs, he writes about how 20,000 jobs have been slashed. Why? Because of item number two--a misguided effort to battle the deficit. If we had the political will to do so, funding state and local governments with Federal grants specifically designed to keep people in their jobs would be a tremendous benefit to both the economy and to fighting the deficit. People who are working pay taxes; this revenue helps reduce deficits at both the state and Federal level. Whenever someone is thrown out of work, the ripple effect cascades through the economy. Avoiding that buys time so that the economy can recover.

It's all about the jobs. Whoever wants to be President next year has to answer for the need for jobs. And cutting the deficit is not going to create a single job in this country. Period. End of story.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Phony Piece of Argument from Megan McArdle


I just about fell out of my chair when McArdle said this:

"Everyone I've spoken to about the problem seems to agree that the poor respond to these high marginal tax rates by either taking lower-paying jobs than they could, or working less--not in every individual case, but in aggregate."
Yes, but Frankel's post is three and a half years old. And the person in question made a choice to pursue a job that paid more, but cost her more in gas and other expenses. When you make a choice to change jobs, you have to factor in costs vs benefits and this person didn't do that. Working in a big city will pay you more but costs will have to come out of that extra income--who doesn't know that? Just because she made a poor choice doesn't mean that we should give tax cuts to millionaires. Wait--isn't that what this is about? Because of the false choice presented by a three and a half year-old anecdote, I'm supposed to clap for a tax cut for people making a lot of money?

The problem also happens to be that wages have stagnated for the working poor. And there isn't one single Republican policy that has done anything in the intervening three point five years to alleviate that woman's stress. In fact, by preventing the reform of health care, and by shutting down the government, and making every piece of legislation rise or fall on the whim of a Senator who doesn't care who goes without heat or lights or food or medicine, there is no dynamic movement in addressing the fact that the working poor are being punished.

This is like the argument that raising the price of gas will cause people to drive less. No, people buy as much gas as they need, and no more. People will always have to weigh their wages against what they can afford in added expenses. Being smart about that is a personal responsibility. But that doesn't mean we should cut taxes on the rich.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Royal Bank of Scotland Fails


Of course, the joke going around is, Sean Connery took his money out of the Royal Bank of Scotland in cash, causing it to collapse outright. But that's not even close to the real truth.

Six or seven years ago, our monetary elites were out of control. Completely and utterly insane with greed, and they began to leverage themselves into positions whereby they could bail and stick everyone else with the bill. When the bill came due, they believed that they would not only land on their feet but that the impact of their transgressions wouldn't be too bad.

Well, it's going on four years now, and we are, as Paul Krugman says, in a Depression. It doesn't look or feel like the Great Depression, but it is a period of stagnation, desperation, and unregulated greed nonetheless. Austerity has killed economic growth and condemned millions to a state of permanent joblessness. Millions of productive workers have given up looking for work. And few, if any, credible modifications have occurred in the financial sector (in Britain, in the United States, or anywhere else for that matter) that would ensure that another speculation bubble couldn't happen.

There's a very real danger that the unregulated markets throughout the world right now are going to spawn a super-predator, one who has no hesitation about screwing people mercilessly and creating massive economic damage to the world's economy. That could be in the form of a person, a business, or some other such entity. But, make no mistake about it, we're headed for the days of the walled private compound brimming with well-paid guards and people living in fantastic comfort well beyond the reach of any bought-and-paid-for judge.

This is the banana republic era, and we are all plantation workers now.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Impoverished?


Paul Singer's article leads with a whopper of a mistake. To say that Newt Gingrich, circa 1979, was "impoverished" is ludicrous.

Impoverished by Washington standards? Impoverished, as seen through the filter of modern journalistic integrity, whatever that is? Impoverished by whose standards, I want to know.

The article says that Gingrich was making a little over $10,000 per year in 1979, after having been denied tenure (which was for being too focused on running for Congress in the 1970s, apparently). His "debt" was probably some sort of loan or something of that nature, and I'm surprised that he did not own a home at that point in his life, but oh well.

In any event, this is what poverty looked like in 1979:



Now, I'm an idiot. And if I can look up something like this, and find where the poverty line was in 1979, why can't a big shot reporter with editors and a full-time job look it up? Given his family situation (a wife, several kids), Gingrich would have been at least two or three thousand dollars above the poverty line, and living in Georgia, to boot. Georgia, in case you didn't know, has traditionally enjoyed a lower cost of living than, say, Washington D.C. or the Mid-Atlantic region.

In other words, Gingrich wasn't "impoverished" by any stretch of the imagination. His "debt" was probably being serviced and his family was probably living at a level no better or worse than any of their contemporaries.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Season of Petty Theft

'Shoplifters of the World Unite' by The Smiths


Shoplifting has always fascinated me. Catching shoplifters used to be a part of my working life when I was holding down retail jobs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. My last retail job was in 1998, or so, and that was a part-time bookstore position that took a very "enlightened" view towards shoplifting. In essence, the store didn't care; catching shoplifters was a time-consuming and regular customer-ignoring activity and so it was discouraged in order to maintain a more "civil" atmosphere in the store.

I've caught several shoplifters; most, if not all, I just let go. I think there were a few that were detained, but that was because I was not running the store at the time or the only one in the store. In several cases, there was no point in calling the police; I would have had to have shut down the store because I was the only one in it. Take the merchandise, let the shoplifter go. That's the way to do it.

I'm not surprised at the list; people are in desperate straits. The item at the end is worth a blog post if only because MSNBC.com has, on staff, some twit who things typing "ewwwwwww" is meaningful and entertaining. This, being a news item, is not where you make a comment about the fact that other human beings like to wash themselves and stay clean.

But, a little analysis is in order. The reason why people steal Axe body wash is because it is more expensive than other products in that same vein. And, it's in a part of a retail store that is not under heavy surveillance. So it's an item that is appealing, it's worth about the same as a value meal, and it isn't being watched night and day by the closed-circuit television monitors.

People are going to steal, and there is very little that will deter them. People steal in good times and in bad; it usually comes down to their personal situation. Are they stealing for psychological reasons or are they stealing because they're sick of being broke?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Key Word Here is Usually


Our super-elites lead charmed lives. They float through the ether, leaving bits of themselves on others, and no one thinks twice about ethics or values anymore. Those are for suckers. Strauss-Kahn goes on to say that there were "usually" no hookers at the parties he went to. Were there usually people with cameras willing to take pictures on the sly and bribe people? Were there usually agents of foreign powers there, looking to spring the well-worn honey trap? Thank God this man has no chance of being a partner when it comes to the security operations carried out by France in conjunction with other nation/states.

I still can't figure out if he merely self-destructed or if he was the target of a coordinated smear campaign. Someone had to have sent that maid into his room with the intention of getting him to do something he wasn't supposed to do. But, in the mind of Strauss-Kahn, there were no limitations on what he was "supposed to do." There were no moral or ethical boundaries.

This is a man who clearly lives a life entirely free of accountability (until recently) and who gratifies himself any way he can. In this regard, is he any different from a Baptist preacher who does meth and demands gay sex in return? Is he any different from any elite member of society at any stage in human history?

No, of course not. But even the French can see that he is too randy and too easily compromised to trust.

Friday, November 25, 2011

At Some Point, People Will Stop Caring About This Stuff



Bear in mind, this is just stuff.

People need stuff. They need comfort and they need consumer goods. But they are now realizing that this stuff is drying up. The money isn't there anymore. The goods aren't as necessary anymore. People are going to turn on this kind of thinking and figure out something else.

It won't be an austerity kick or a threadbare sort of vogue. People will realize that they just need less stuff. Information wakes people up, almost intrinsically. You can do more with less. You can have a comfortable, joyful life. You just need to do it without as much money and with less crap. Everyone can get there. Hopefully, someone will show the way.

What empowers the 1% is the fact that they have spent the last few hundred years figuring out how to tame and placate the populace. That opiate for the masses? It isn't religion anymore. It's stuff.

What broke about five years ago was the mechanism through which the 1% would stop absorbing wealth and allow some of that comfort and that "stuff" to filter back down to the masses to keep them fat, dumb and happy. The mechanism snapped, breaking itself into a multi-trillion dollar loss that no one knows how to adequately explain. Well, I know--your home value, your 401K, and all the raises you're not getting--that's where those trillions went.

I don't condemn these people for fighting over stuff. Everyone needs to get just a little bit of it. We're talking about a basic human need. But when people get smart and start doing more with less, the 1% will have a little less leverage. That is the price of breaking the mechanism.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stay on Your Well Manicured Lawn




College: Obama effigy burning 'not intentionally racist'
A Conservative party college student association in Britain will send a written apology to Barack Obama after its members burned an effigy of the U.S. president.

It may not have been racist but it certainly sent a message. Burning the US President in effigy is all well and good, but writing a letter of apology smacks of being asinine. Who cares what a group of college students at Andrews University have to say about an American president? These are the same "elites" that are screwing up Great Britain and these are the same pampered and ridiculous kids who will go on to do monstrous things to the working classes. Their opinions are irrelevant, their apology is conjured and phony, and their futures mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. 

And, what's more, things are so bad in Great Britain right now, Scotland and Wales should think seriously about independence; and Northern Ireland would be better off reuniting with the Irish.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When Will the Police Brutality Wake Up a Sleeping Nation?




At some point, enough people will wake up to the fact that their right to protest is gone. We have a little more than eleven months until election day, 2012. Is that the day when the people will take back their country? Take it back from whom? I don't know, either.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Now We Can Help Homeless People As Well, Right?


If successful, this is how the authorities will begin to dismantle and disrupt the Occupy movement--by claiming that there are sanitary reasons for taking down any encampment in a public place.

When they're done, I'm sure they'll help out the folks living under bridges and underpasses all over the country.


We simply cannot allow any human being to live in filthy, unsanitary conditions, right?

It's nice to know that people care.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shut Up About Your Unpicked Pickles


Oh, cry me a river:


How much do you want to bet that Mr. Jerry Danforth will go right back to voting for Republicans? Because that's what people in Alabama do--they consistently vote against their own economic self-interest and give the Republican Party a pass on all of the anti-business and anti-common sense things that they do.

The problem is, people are too busy screaming about "the law" and "what part of illegal don't you understand" so there's no point in discussing this issue. Millions of dollars in produce are going to rot in the fields, driving up the prices. Next season, expect even higher prices and more profits for these farmers, who will cut down what they plant and hedge their bets.

The people who will suffer are the ones who should be eating healthier foods. America's refined sugar and enriched flour interests win again.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Austerity or Good Government

The only thing that "austerity" does for the world economy is "more of the same." We need to encourage spending in order to kickstart growth and get people working again. The same is true no matter where you live--if your government is paralyzed with austerity programs, you won't see any growth. If people are incentivized to risk and spend money and enter into agreements that are based on getting positive economic behavior to flourish, then we might have a chance.

Irrational, wasteful spending is the problem. There used to be a thing called good government. You know, where the government actually does what it is supposed to do in order to right the ship and get people working again. But what is irrational and wasteful to some legislators is actually corruption, fraud, and unnecessary military spending in the eyes of others, and they aim to keep it that way. Our global governing elites love spending money. The problem is, they're spending money to enrich themselves, their clientele, and they're doing it by stealing everything that isn't nailed down.

Crony capitalism begets revolution in three, two, one...

Friday, November 11, 2011

MF Global Holdings Terminates Everyone

I think it's a fairly safe bet that a lot of those people were prepared for this to happen. I don't think it was quite the "aftershock" that they are making it out to be here. When the whole rotten edifice collapsed at the end of October, John Corzine was the one holding the bag.

It is highly likely that he will be the face of this collapse, but was he the person with the sole responsibility for what happened? Probably not. I do not think he's going to walk away from this and go back into politics any time soon.

The end result is that a lot of people are thrown out of work. How do you muster up feelings of sympathy for people who worked for a firm that basically placed bets on what was going to go seriously right or wrong for various economic systems around the world? How do you feel anything for an employee of a brokerage firm that played a small part in helping to further wreck the economy of the world by placing bets on whether or not this bank or this country would get a bailout?

I suppose there were people at the bottom of the spectrum from Corzine who were not involved in the crapshoot. Feeling sorry for those people is admirable. I still don't know how to muster up that kind of sympathy, but I'll try.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Now That is the Face of Distress


Oh, she should go down to that Mall of America because my friend Ardys and her husband Arlyn says that the cops have chased out all the rowdy kids so they could put in a buffet on the main level and it fills up by noon with the mall walkers and all that, don't you know.

I'm sorry, but the fact that Kim Kardashian has been to my home state more times than I have in the last decade is not so much troubling as it is weird. The super fabulous and super famous have problems just like the rest of us. How do they keep the locals from bothering her? Do they carry tarps around to shield her from the people at Sirloin Stockade?

Whoops, wrong blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

These Are the People Who Are Not Creating All of Those Jobs


I'm sure that some of these tax cheats are creating jobs. But where? Are they jobs that pay well? Are they exploiting their employees as well? How does Mattel end up not paying taxes on the plastic crap they sell that is made overseas? I don't get that at all.

When tax cuts were sold to the American people, over and over again, they were sold, at least in my lifetime, with the promise and understanding that jobs and wonderful things would "trickle down" to the lowly working masses. Well, the lowly working masses can't find jobs but the multi-billion dollar companies that enjoy a world where they pay no taxes keep finding ways to not hire anybody or pay them a decent wage. That is what is wrong with America right now. The social contract has been shattered and driven over and set on fire and flushed down a gold-plated toilet in the Executive washroom.

Anyway, this is just how distressed our kind gentlefolk are right now. They're being called on their cheating and they just don't like it. Right about now, a bell is going to ring and people are going to start making demands of their government. Will their government listen?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Does Corzine Sound Like a Crook?


While shocking, this story fails to put the lede in the right place. Former Governor of New Jersey John Corzine has not been accused of wrongdoing. Customer funds have been misallocated. And there is no allegation, at this time, of wrongdoing. The article does make it look like Corzine is a crook, however, and that's why the whole thing sounds pretty fishy right now.

So what's really happening here?

Our moneyed elites can't run anything and the complexities of modern finance are too much for a class of people that has skated for decades on good looks, connections, and buying the answers to tests. Is Corzine a symbol of incompetence, greed, or laziness? Or does he just have trouble finding good help?

Feel Sorry For the Poor Supermodel


Rarely do you get to see an example of someone so young and beautiful being completely out of touch with reality. Living in Europe, as she does, and having access to advisors and mentors, she should have known that her past association with the Libyan regime, no matter how innocent, was going to be a liability for her. She should have kept quiet about what she thought because her job--being in the marketplace and possessing the ability to sell things with her image--is based in part on whether she can handle being asked about her past associations.

Hessler is entitled to her opinion, of course, but she is not entitled to her modeling job. That's all she seems to have lost so far since the now-defunct Libyan regime has been all but destroyed. But here's the really interesting part. If asked, by an international court, how much Mutassim Qaddafi spent on her and whether he gave her anything of value, what should she say? Should she profess her undying love for a criminal regime and subject herself to further humiliation and the possibility of having to repay the people of Libya for whatever Mutassim gave her?

That opens up a larger question. Can the celebrities who fawned over, accepted payment from, and legitimized some of the most reprehensible regimes on Earth face any kind of sanction for doing so? If so, then consider Hessler a case study in saying too much.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Truth Comes Out When The Party Starts



This is fairly sickening, but probably goes on more than people realize. It is news that there really are people making money off of the misery of their fellow Americans? No, but it is news when it can be presented in a visual way. These photos are the real story.

Who has the karma to be this callous?

The young lady pictured above is not homeless. She is mocking someone who has been made homeless by the predatory tactics of the law firm for which she works or is associated with. She is making light of the fact that Americans are being thrown out of their homes because the Steven J. Baum law firm makes money taking away the homes of people who aren't able to keep up with their mortgage payments. And while someone has to do this work, it is more than apparent that the Baum firm sees this sort of predatory behavior as necessary and justified.

Again, karma is a real bitch. Economic disaster can hit any time and anywhere. And now the world knows what the Baum firm thinks of itself and the people it has spent the last few years tearing apart. Well, 'may you live in interesting times' was never more apt.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Over the Moon in Brisbane



No, you shouldn't moon the Queen of England. I can't believe we're even having this discussion.


Unsanitary and unpleasant, yes. But, what do you accomplish by mooning the Queen? You accomplish nothing, you end up bothering a lot of busy people who have to protect the Queen from real outrages and the like, and you end up ruining a perfectly good Australian flag.

There's no victory here. Only chafing and poor hygiene choices.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Really Happened After the 1986 Tax Reform


Martin Feldstein at the Wall Street Journal is arguing that the tax reform enacted in 1986 had a positive impact on the American economy. In many ways, sure, I'll buy that. He even goes so far as to say that, when you cut taxes, the amount of actual taxes paid into the system goes up, not down.

Ignoring the usual "trickle down" theories that go with this sort of thing, I'll add one piece of evidence which will show what tax cuts really do to the American economy. Taxes paid into the system are important, don't get me wrong, and Feldstein is not a liar, a cheat, or a thief in any sense of the word because he seems to be making a great partial argument. As seen above, he actually has evidence to back him up. But his evidence is missing something crucial.

The rest of the argument is here:


When we cut taxes, for some bizarre reason, the amount of wealth concentrated at the top goes up and when we raise taxes, it goes down. Look at three specific areas on that table. In 1922, the American economy wasn't in great shape, but wealth was more evenly distributed; when we skip ahead to 1929, look at how much wealth became concentrated upwards in this country, thanks to the policies of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge (and a little Herbert Hoover thrown in). The mantra of the 1920s was fiscal responsibility and no Federal spending.

After that, the tax rates kept things more or less in balance, and it was a sustainable balance that led to the great economic expansion of the American economy. Our economy grew when our top tax rates were in the 90 percentile range and the wealthy still held on to their money. During the 1940s and 1950s, the wealthy enjoyed an almost steady hold on around 30% of the nation's wealth; that would drop precipitously in the 1970s under Nixon and Ford. That's the economic record we should be investigating. What happened? Insert your own OMG and your own LOL on that one.

Our Gross Domestic Product has been growing at a massive rate, don't get me wrong. This rising tide has lifted a great many boats. But our economy is stagnating and wages are going down; it's time for a change of direction.

Look at what happens after 1986, as seen above. The bottom 99% of the economy saw their portion of the nation's wealth shrink by 4%. That's a shocking drop, even more so since it had fallen by roughly 12% in just ten years. So much for the Reagan tax cuts--all they did was redistribute income upwards.

Look at the spike that occurs after the Bush tax cuts--another sharp redistribution of wealth upwards, resulting in a steady, almost confiscatory level of wealth redistribution that continued unabated through the last decade. The wealthy are enjoying twenty-odd years of fabulousness and fatuousness that is absolutely killing out economy. Feldstein argues that one of the improvements that came about after 1986 was in the area of entrepreneurship and risk taking. How's that working out for us now? The wealthy are not creating jobs; they're hoarding their ill-gotten gains. This is why there's so much legitimate anger out there.

This is what tax cuts do--they put more wealth into the pockets of the top tiers of the economy. They do not increase the amount of wealth held by the bottom 99%. That's a fallacy that is constantly being rammed into this debate. Unemployment is a much larger issue, and when there is low unemployment, tax receipts increase because more people are paying into the system. That accounts for part of what Feldstein is saying, but not all of it. Unfortunately, we can't afford any more tax cuts. Not for another generation. But the Wall Street Journal is never going to stop beating that dead horse, no matter what.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Won't Americans Pick Potatoes?

This is where you have to comment on the brilliant leadership of the State of Alabama. Every one of them thought that if they could just drive out the so-called "illegal immigrants" that it would magically fix everything. It didn't. Now they have produce rotting in the fields, which will drive up prices and hit the people at the bottom of the economic spectrum even harder. When you make healthy food too expensive to buy, you create a downward spiral for public health and public wellness. The only left to do is eat the seed corn, buy more Twinkies, and stock up on insulin.

It actually reveals a great deal about this country and it speaks volumes about why the rhetoric has gotten it wrong every time. Let me just say that if there weren't low-paying, hard labor jobs in this country that ordinary Americans were unwilling to do, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The fact is, these jobs have always been around. Remember slavery? That's what slavery was designed to do--fix the problem of how you get human beings to do backbreaking work. Migrant workers have had to fill a lot of the labor gaps in this country's history and they have had to do it for terrible wages. Think of that sort of life--months and months on end of doing nothing but farm work, hoping to make enough money to survive. And these are the people who are the problem?

No, they're not the problem. Poor people are not the problem with America's economy or society or culture. The real problems run deeper than that. Americans are conditioned to vote against their own economic self-interest and they are fed lies about why times are tough. It's that simple.

After shooting itself in the foot, and after terrorizing thousands of families, Alabama still can't figure out how to deal with this issue. There is high unemployment throughout the state, but nobody is willing to go pick potatoes and harvest other crops by hand. You see, that's "Mexican" work and people who have a very high opinion of themselves simply refuse to spend more than a pleasant, sunny morning working in the fields. Oh, the horror of it all! Having to bend over and pick things up--why, that's just not right. Americans should be in charge of the people who have to do that sort of thing, right? And when the jobs of the overseers are filled up, certainly we can create jobs were decent Americans can stand around with cattle prods and shotguns to ensure that no one misses a potato or takes a twenty minute break, right?

Hey, instead of spending Saturday watching college football, get out there and spend ten or twelve hours picking up vegetables in the field, okay? And then come back and tell me that things are better now that all of the "illegal immigrants" are gone.

People in Alabama screamed for this law and now they don't know what to do. There is work waiting for them, but they are unwilling to do it. They are too lazy to do it. There are people who have seen their unemployment benefits run completely out and they are not ready to go into the fields and dig potatoes out of the ground for any amount of money.

I guess the answer now is to criminalize laziness. Alabama should now pass a law that says that anyone who can't walk into a dirt field and harvest a cash crop for fifty or sixty hours per week should flee the state in the middle of the night and abandon their belongings and disrupt the lives of their children.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cheap Shots


This is one of the sillier pieces of counter-occupy propaganda that is flooding the Internet. Cheap shots are easy to take. The problem is, pointing out that these people use products and protest corporations is fairly simple-minded. They're protesting the fact that the corporations are violating a basic social compact with the American public.

And, in point of fact, many of them are there because one of the things these corporations "made" was a product that repackaged thousands of home mortgages into junk debt which they sold and resold multiple times in order to destroy communities and create a vast amount of misery and hardship for these same people who are protesting.

I don't see them wearing or using their repackaged mortgage products because those things weren't marketed and sold to the American people. They were traded by speculators and fund managers and crooks and thieves and they helped ruin the American economy. That's patriotism, though. In the richest nation on Earth, you are free to create an instrument of destroying the economic fabric of the nation and no one thinks twice about punching the hippie who notices what you did.

As with anything, there's a little "more" to this story.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lowe's Shuts Down a Handful of Stores, Distressing More of the Gentlefolk

Store Closing Fact Sheet - 10.17.11
An interesting document, and the thing that caught my eye is the fact that, from New Jersey to Maine, things aren't going very well for Lowe's right now. With almost half of the stores being closed in this area, there isn't much to celebrate in the economy right now. If Lowe's can't make it, what does that say about the possibility that a lot retail businesses are on the verge of folding? And, if they are, doesn't that mean thousands and thousands of people who are now underemployed are going to be out of work?

No wonder people are Occupying Wall Street. Every time there's a clear indication of what's going on, we get media confusion and obfuscation. It's a better story when you can read about the dirty hippies stealing from each other and doing drugs, isn't it? Meanwhile, thousands more out of work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Good News for Catholics of Royal Blood and Standing

Much of what is being proposed by the Prime Minister does away with centuries of anti-Catholic vitriol and equalizes the sexes. This is good news for anyone harboring secret feelings towards Catholicism, and that's about it.

These changes seem to signal that Britain is not ready to get rid of the monarchy. By making it all more equal, egalitarian, and palatable, perhaps all Cameron is doing is postponing the day of dissolution of the monarchy. This new couple seems to be in it for the long haul.  If they can maintain their status as one of the most wildly popular couples in history, their grandchildren will probably live in an England that is ready to be ruled under this new Act of Settlement.

Does This Sound Like Justice?


Nothing I'm reading here sounds like justice. It sounds like economic displacement and xenophobia.

Ideally, yes you'd want people to come here legally and make a life for themselves. These people couldn't do that. But they were still able to get trailers, put their kids in schools, find work, pay taxes, and live in these communities. In many cases, Hispanic workers in the deepest parts of the South outwork everyone around them and live happy, productive lives with sound family values.

Hispanic families are stronger than other families because they find a way to live their lives according to basic rules that I certainly find appealing. They are honest, trustworthy, and do things that are very admirable. They take care of the elderly members of their family, their extended family structure means more children have more positive role models, and their way of life is centered around celebrating their family relationships and, basically, staying out of the way of everyone else.

I'm generalizing, and I'm stereotyping, but I get sick of all the negative stuff that I read and hear. If you look at that trailer, and consider it the best chance those kids playing soccer had in this world, and then you read about how their terrified parents basically had to give away everything they own for nothing and flee the state of Alabama in the dead of night, praying that a Johnny Law wouldn't stop them and demand papers from them, well, you have to wonder why even bother having a country anymore.

I would rather have Hispanic family values around me than the ones found in many parts of white Alabama, where alcoholism, divorce, violence, and infidelity seems to have a free rein (I use that rather than "free reign" because it's the correct form) in those communities. We're all just people. Everyone is basically just trying to live their lives and not get hassled. African-Americans have been trying to find a hassle-free way to live with the establishment in Alabama since before anyone knew there was an Alabama.

And yet, the powers that be in that state cannot lead, cannot do the decent thing, and cannot make a law that doesn't stick a fist in the eye of liberty and grind a boot heel into the throat of decency. As God is my witness, I'll never live in Alabama, ever.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Way to Go, Alabama

The State of Alabama has now become a national laughingstock. Faced with the ruins of Tuscaloosa and a fall harvest, the wise and just leaders of that state passed a law that basically kneecaps anyone who has work that needs to be done. Brilliant.

Interestingly enough, the article goes on to make the claim that unemployment in Alabama is going to go down because now legal residents will be able to take the jobs that the Hispanic workers have abandoned. How many of them will take up the slack in the roofing business or the tomato picking business is anybody's guess.

It's fashionable to hate illegal immigrants. But the problem goes beyond the law and immigration. There are jobs here no one wants to do. There are people who will do whatever they can to fill those jobs and make a life. Employers profit from this situation, and they've been begging the government to fix this situation. The government, at both the Federal and State level, is incapable of finding a political solution to a very simple problem. This is why we end up with what we have.

First of all, poor people aren't the problem. Second of all, the laws involved here are part of the rules of immigrating here. These laws are not in the same league as the laws that cover violent crime, stealing millions from a hedge fund, or setting up a Ponzi scheme. Third, the need for workers who will do the undesirable jobs is not going to dry up so fixing this problem can be done simply by granting right-to-work visas and permits.

I can't stand the demonization of people who come here to work. I think it's an issue of social justice, and we're going to look back at this period of American History and see a period of shameful decisions and misguided legislation, and, more importantly, a time when millions of good people were punished and humiliated and ruined for no good reason.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Does This Sound Like Justice?


Nothing I'm reading here sounds like justice. It sounds like economic displacement and xenophobia.

Ideally, yes you'd want people to come here legally and make a life for themselves. These people couldn't do that. But they were still able to get trailers, put their kids in schools, find work, pay taxes, and live in these communities. So long to those good citizens. And if you think a white worker is going to go and do whatever those Hispanic workers were doing to make ends meet, please. I was born at night, but I wasn't born last night.

In many cases, Hispanic workers in the other parts of the South outwork everyone around them and live happy, productive lives with sound family values. You can hate on the truth all you want, and scream about the law, but when push comes to shove, there are plenty of people who were born here who live in the underground economy and work for cash under the table and live outside of the system. That's what this is about. People who scream about the law can't admit that they, themselves, would gladly take a few hundred bucks for doing something off the books so that Uncle Sugar doesn't get his cut. This underground economy pays a consumption tax back into the system via local sales taxes, so don't tell me that people living in this manner don't pay taxes and contribute to society.

Hispanic families are stronger than other families because they find a way to live their lives according to basic rules that I certainly find appealing. They are honest, trustworthy, and do things that are very admirable. They take care of the elderly members of their family, their extended family structure means more children have more positive role models, and their way of life is centered around celebrating their family relationships and, basically, staying out of the way of everyone else.

I'm generalizing, and I'm stereotyping, but I get sick of all the negative stuff that I read and hear. I look at that trailer, and consider it the best chance those kids playing soccer had in this world. When I read about how their terrified parents basically had to give away everything they own for nothing and flee the state of Alabama in the dead of night, praying that a Johnny Law wouldn't stop them and demand papers from them, well, why even bother having a country anymore? It's a nation of envious, hateful, ignorant people who consistently vote against their economic self-interest. So far, I haven't seen a single Republican solve our economic problems, provide a decent plan to put people back to work, and try to solve our health care issues. I've seen some Democrats try and fail. But only one side dares to blame it on Hispanics who come here, live by the rules, and try to build a life.

I would rather have Hispanic family values around me than the ones found in many parts of white Alabama, where alcoholism, divorce, violence, and infidelity seems to have a free rein (I use that rather than "free reign" because it's the correct form) in those communities. We're all just people. Everyone is basically just trying to live their lives and not get hassled. African-Americans have been trying to find a hassle-free way to live with the establishment in Alabama for decades now. Do they have the rule of law in Alabama? Are they acquainted with it? Or is there just a penchant for screaming and posturing? How brave. I was always taught that being a Daddy meant taking care of people and doing the right thing. I guess Alabama doesn't have any Daddies.

In many Hispanic families, you'd better believe there's a Daddy. And a Mommy. And uncles, aunts, a grandma, a grandpa, three cousins and a whole lot of other people who watch out for each other. Hey, how about more of that as opposed to a jackass in a baseball cap with greasy hair, 2.4 kids he never sees, and a Confederate flag window decal? How about more responsible adults and fewer inarticulate, immature, inconsiderate bums who can't stop fucking women they're not married to and who can't avoid drinking themselves into a fender bender before 9 AM?

Since when are poor people the problem? I don't get that. Poor people are not the problem. They're not taking anything away from anyone. They're just living their lives.

And yet, the powers that be in that state cannot lead, cannot do the decent thing, and cannot make a law that doesn't stick a fist in the eye of liberty and grind a boot heel into the throat of decency. As God is my witness, I'll never live in Alabama, ever, and I'll never go there unless there's a damned good reason.

Alabama, welcome to the official status of Hateful Shithole of America (Arizona, I'm looking at you with one eye, and I know you're jealous, but there it is).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Another Misunderstood Genius of Comedy

I really think that, when you use three exclamation points, nothing you say can or will be held against you, but that's me. I get this whole comedy thing.

Somewhere, a genius is misunderstood. I think that genius used to run a QC Mart somewhere in Iowa.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Cynic in Me Fades Away


Alright, I admit it.

I wish I had the balls that this guy has. This guy has stones. And I don't mean that in a sexist way. He has the bravery of the ages. He is standing there shirtless with cardboard, and the laconic cops are bored with it all. But he's there, and he's not afraid of anything.

Out there with him are other men and women who are equally as brave, trying to make something come together and work. A few years ago, a more cynical version of myself would have probably laughed. You can't stand up to the establishment in this country. You can't protest money, power, privilege and influence. The kids out there, running through the streets in ones and twos and threes and fours are no match for the fist of the Man.

Hey, the Man's gotta fall sometime. Why not now?

I don't know whether Occupy Wall Street is a fleeting thing, a fading glimpse of organized protest, a misguided attempt to put a country on notice, a media-ignored event of significant ramifications. I have no idea where it will go and I have a lousy track record for predictions.

It starts with balls. Courage. Conviction. And standing up with cardboard, sans hair shirt and in a good pair of shoes that'll let you run when it's time to beat feet.

Anyway, this guy has that rare element of fearlessness that you find in the best of America.

These are Americans, standing up for American values and the American way of life. Wall Street told America to fuck off years ago. Trading derivatives and flushing thousands of mortgages and destroying neighborhoods was Wall Street's way of demonstrating how it feels about America.

This guy is the real American. Those cops should join him out there and show the Man what's what. Peacefully, of course. And with all the love of a Beatles album or something like that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

So Long, Elisabetta Canalis

In what must be a symbol of major distress to beautiful, rich, and famous people everywhere, Elisabetta Canalis has been dumped from "Dancing With the Stars."

Normally, I'd say, "I didn't see that coming," but the truth is, I don't pay attention to the actual shows themselves. I am inundated with the stories that run on the press wires. The fodder these shows generate is well in excess of their actual importance. They do get high ratings, however, so I can see why these stories run so frequently. They seem to be ginned up with phony outrage and fake feuds that aren't there.

Canalis is famous for being dumped by a rapidly aging American film actor named George Clooney. She is, or was, a model in Europe and has now been fired from an American television program that features a kind of reality television format. That's right--fired. Let go. Cut loose.

If Elisabetta Canalis can't find work in this country, what does that say about our economy? And how sad is it that this is what passes for entertainment and a relief from the day to day grind? Watching people dance, badly in many cases, is now the opiate of the masses. Nothing is more disposable than a show like this. How are you going to run this again when the eventual winner is crowned? The show itself isn't worth archiving let alone worth purchasing as a complete season. I've never seen the point in running so many cheap reality shows. But, then again, maybe there's no money to be made in syndication or reruns, either.

I also wonder what this does to confidence level of women in general. Do they see her defeat, so early in the season, as proof that the pretty girl doesn't win in the end?
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Important Detail is Missing From This Story?


I'll bet you can spot the missing detail.

We have a case where a man worked for the union, worked for the city of Chicago, and ended up with a large pension. Dennis Gannon was a public servant, and he has retired with a great deal of wealth. He didn't break any laws or do anything wrong. But his success in life is a reason to destroy his life? Because that's exactly what this article intends to do. The Chicago Tribune cannot point to a single thing that he did wrong, except know the laws, know the system, and do what he needed to do for himself.

Anyway, that one important detail?

Governor Jim Thompson was a Republican.

Doesn't that make you view this in a different light? And why is it that this article mentions nothing about Thompson's political affiliation? Don't you think it is relevant to tell people that the man who signed the law that allowed Gannon to acquire his pension was a Republican, given the case being made against organized labor practices in this country by the Republican Party?

You see, the current argument is framed as if the Republican Party has been the absolute pure and contented virgin, dipping her toes in the waters of corruption and sin exactly no times in the entire history of the Tea Party republic. And yet, when you consider that a Republican handed the people a law with his signature on it that would allow Gannon to do what he did, you can't help but wonder what all the fuss is about. He now works for a hedge fund, by the way. So raise taxes on hedge fund workers already, my goodness. Wouldn't that make all of this feel a little better?

It is perfectly okay to hand millions to the rich, the well-connected, the corporations, the oil companies, the energy conglomerates and even to the lowly people who work for the hedge funds. But if one man who works for a union ever gets himself a decent pension, forget it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Society's Elite Deal With Adversity

I'm not unsympathetic to what is going on in this article. I have snipped out this piece at the bottom because that's the most compelling part of it. It's not a good thing to see an example of someone being "forced" to work in the sex industry. But this is about a lawyer that can't find work who chooses to work as a topless dancer because of a lack of opportunities. The whole smacks of an elitism that I think is worth commenting on.

No one grows up wishing or praying that they can enter the sex industry. Those who do enter it for a number of reasons, not all about money and not all about abuse or drugs. There are no simple answers, but there are a lot of simple reasons. How is "awful" that someone with a law degree has to dance in a topless bar while the other thirty or forty women have to dance there as well? Are they less important because they have not held a professional job or because they do not have a law degree?

If anything, this should tell you what a law degree is worth if you don't find the right job when you get out of law school. If this woman had specialized or practiced law in such a way as to make herself marketable, would she really be in this position? What if she is, in fact, marketable but chooses to live in a part of the country where there are few, if any, jobs for people who practice the kind of law that she has specialized in?

Is this really a reflection of American society, circa 2011, or is this a symptom of a more generally broken economy and something that should not reflect back on her? If so, then the other thirty women dancing topless in whatever establishment our lawyer is dancing in should not be held in contempt because of what they are having to do in order to survive in this economy. If you can consider the economic conditions that would have a professional woman giving lap dances in a topless men's club, then you can probably develop an understanding as to why all of this talk of austerity and belt-tightening is really putting the squeeze to people who are at their breaking point.

This article sounds, to me, anyway, like this woman is going to break if she cannot escape from the sex industry. Does that sound like heart-wrenching desperation or a calculated move? Some would say both. What better way to distance yourself from something than to set an artificial deadline for stopping.

As noted above, the indignities that this woman is suffering are all too real--for her, and for many other women in the sex industry. Does this article smack of elitism because of the horrifying view she has for being a topless dancer? Why is she so ashamed of what she is doing, legally, in order to make a living? If she were open and honest about what she is doing, wouldn't that help remove some of the stigmas that are associated with dancing topless? Wouldn't she be giving other women forced by economic desperation into this line of work some measure of respect?

If she is so unhappy about what she is doing, why doesn't she try to join the military? She could enter the United States Army, for example, as an officer and join the JAG corps. She could serve for four to six years and gain a tremendous amount of legal experience and probably find a great deal of professional success as a JAG lawyer.

Or is there a stigma attached to that as well?
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The End of Saab?


If Saab fails, then I'm certain that any remaining U.S. car dealers who derive even part of their business from selling Saabs will feel the effects. Are there any dealers who sell Saabs and only Saabs? Or have they all "folded in" with other brands?

The global auto industry has changed over the past few years, so no one is really shocked to see Saab's demise. Whenever a carmaker goes out of business, so many different groups are affected. The people who deal with and supply parts now have to make do with what they have, since the manufacturing process has stopped. The people who rely on their old Saabs for transportation--and can't afford new cars or expensive repairs--now have to wonder what they will have to go through in order to get a simple repair done for their car. What a mess.

These cars were somewhat popular in Minnesota. I can remember walking by a pair of parked Saab 900s every morning on the way to broadcasting school, circa 1988-89.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Distressed Royalty


I believe that this is the Ladenburg in question (there are always several German towns with the same name) and it sounds like a great place to visit. I believe that, when you have a busy restaurant like that, it means the food is pretty good. No wonder the royals tried to get something to eat.

Royalty is somewhat more accepted in Germany since there are princes and princesses and royals living all throughout the country. Should they get preferential treatment? Of course not.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scenes From the Breakdown of America's Economy


There are two Americas--the one where white people can find jobs and the one where African-Americans can find jobs. We comfort ourselves by putting the national unemployment rate at the artificially low level of 9 percent or so--for African-Americans nationwide it is much higher than that. Factor in all of the people who have given up and the under-employed, and your national unemployment level is at a critical level.

The solution isn't obvious, but it does involve government stimulus spending to finance job creation projects. Fixing our long-term unemployment issues will take a fundamental reorganization of America's economy. Should we go back to being a country that actually makes stuff? Or has that ship sailed?

I don't know. I do know one thing--President Obama is not going to get reelected if unemployment remains this high. The American people aren't going to vote for the continuation of misery even if they're being lied to by a major party candidate about what can be done to solve our problems. They'll vote for anyone who promises jobs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Governor Chris Christie is Firmly on the Side of the Millionaires


It doesn't get any more blatant than this:

This would have taken an extra 1.78% out of the pockets of millionaires and businesses that make over a million dollars in taxable gross income, something that doesn't even seem too unreasonable, given the times in which we live.

I think what is happening here is a microcosm of the problems that we face. Tax rates are almost artificially too low. Many Americans enjoy tax rates that are almost absurdly low and many corporations pay virtually no income taxes. I live in Europe where there are tax rates that would give an American millionaire a heart attack. And we can't discuss a meager increase in taxes to help make up enormous budget shortfalls?

Where's the room for debate? What is, and what is not acceptable?

Here in this one veto message from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, which has exactly three "reads" in his Scribd account as I'm looking at it now, is the American problem, writ large. No matter what, taxes cannot be raised. Not even by small, pithy amounts. Not for any reason.

Where, then, do you find the middle ground to compromise on anything? You can't.

This is, of course, a veto message. The legislative process is very complex, so I'm sure that this is not the only reason why the bill was vetoed. I get that. But what struck me was how small the increase on tax rates for people making over a million dollars per year was. It was almost nothing. Well, it would mean a lot to a person making nothing per year, of course, but I think we are well past being able to argue that cutting taxes creates jobs. It doesn't.

Fine. If taxes can't be raised, then we have to cut spending. Let's start with all the things that have to be cut, and let's let the Republicans explain why old people have to starve or go without medicine and let's watch them pitch wounded Veterans out onto the street by the busload. Let's cut Medicare and Social Security and plunge the country into Dickensian poverty.

Run on that come election day.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Sam's Club Republican Gives Up and Goes Home


The gang that couldn't shoot straight loses a member. And with the departure of Minnesota's ex-governor Tim Pawlenty comes the realization that there isn't anyone running for President who can claim to speak for working people. And that goes for both parties--nobody cares about working Americans.

You could argue that Pawlenty didn't care about them, either, and I wouldn't disagree. But here's the reality of his departure--Pawlenty was the closest thing to a real advocate for working people in the Republican Party. All of the rest of the candidates are slaves to the wealth that propels them along (or the delusions that accompany those dollars).

Pawlenty had that erstwhile connection to people who shop at Sam's Club. It was a significant part of his appeal for the 150 days of his campaign for the Republican nomination. Now? Forget about hearing anyone champion those people. They didn't turn out to support him in the phony run-up to Iowa and New Hampshire which is months and months away.